Musings about things that interest a "Geezer Gadget Geek" who also happens to enjoy some of the finer things in life that liberty in a free country makes possible.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Vacation in NC

I haven't posted for a while because I was on vacation to the beautiful land of North Carolina! My good friend Tom's daughter Megan lives and works in Statesville, NC, and my daughter Rachael is best of friends with her as well.

The total distance traveled was over 1,700 miles, but my van was made for trips like that and we had a good time getting there, a great time there, and a bittersweet time coming back home. We were guests in Megan's home for four all-too-brief days and she was the perfect hostess.

While there, I was very impressed with the lay of the land, the warm winter weather, and the local cuisine. I especially enjoyed the salmon filet steaks that I ate at "Gluttons" restaurant (you gotta love that name!) and the hours of fellowship playing games with beloved friends - I didn't want it to end. Sigh.

The memories are deep and rich - listening to the girls sing and enjoy themselves at a local Karyoke bar, laughing and enjoying good food at Kobe's Japanese restaurant, and watching "Santa" stumble around in Starbucks - yes, I will cherish the memories of this vacation for a long time! Lord willing, we'll be able to do it again someday.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Bill's Favorite Things

Inspired by the "Living By Faith" blog post, here is a list of my five favorite things...

#1 - Reading. I love to read. I am very much like "Mr. Henry Bemis" from the Twilight Zone in that literature is my favorite hobby. Close on the heals of reading I like writing and computer programming -- which is in essence another form of writing. My favorite format for books is the eBook format on my Palm Treo 755P and my favorite book is the Holy Bible.

#2 - My Children. I have a son, a daughter, and a grandchild - Michael, Rachael, and Jacob. The significant others of my children are also important to me - Sarah and Joe. I have been blessed by God to have been able to raise my children from childhood to adulthood without significant problems and now they are self-sufficient with families of their own. Praise the Lord!

#3 - Retirement. With my children being grown adults and independent now, I have been retired from the proverbial "rat race" for about five years with no regrets. Retirement doesn't mean that I don't work -- it just means that I work when I feel like it and do something else when I feel like it. Retirement is the culmination of a plan that is established when young and followed carefully as the years pass. Perhaps more than anything else - retirement means establishing strict self-control of spending habits early in life.

#4 - Rib-Eye Steaks. Yum yum! Along with salmon, rib-eye steaks are my favorite food. Just thinking about a good rib-eye steak along with a fine wine is enough to "perk me up". Recently, my mother, sister, brother, sister-in-law, and I purchased ¾ of a cow that was hand-raised by a man that my brother works with. At a price of close to $3.00 a pound for the most quality meat we've ever had, it was quite a bargain!

#5 - Survivorman! My favorite program on television is the Survivorman series staring Les Stroud. It may seem strange for a guy like me who is primarily an indoor dweller who relishes modern living to enjoy such a back-to-nature show as this, but it always pleases me to watch Les surviving while I sit back on the proberbial "easy chair", drinking cup in hand, thanking God every moment that I'm here and he's out there!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Technology and Time

I never cease to be amazed at how technology can change our lives!

I'm old enough to know what it was like before cell phones, MP3 players, and PDAs existed - times when we dreaded going to places (doctor's offices, license bureaus, busses, metrolinks, etc.) where huge amounts of potentially productive or entertaining time was wasted on the altar of boredom. I used to dread having to go to these places - and now, thanks to technology, I actually look forward to going to them! You see, I love to read eBooks while listening to music. I love to write as well. I love programming. I love talking and SMSing my son and daughter. All of these I can do and do while waiting now.

You might ask, "but Bill, can't you do these things without having to go to the doctor's office or the license bureau?", and you would be correct. It's just that I don't fear these places any more and in fact, it's the technological evangelist in me that desires to SHOW other people who are bored out of their gored a genuine way out of it.

Unless you were a woman and carried a purse, a paperback book just wasn't an option in those bygone days. Paperback books, as great as they are, just didn't fit in a pants pocket like my Treo 755P, for example, does. But now with my Treo, I can and do carry AN ENTIRE LIBRARY of hundreds of books in my pants pocket! Now that's cool for the literati of our times!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Kenwood TH-F6A - The BEST Radio Ever Made!

In my last posting, I briefly mentioned the gadgets that I always carry around with me and one of them was the Kenwood TH-F6A. This is an Amateur Radio transceiver known as a "tri-bander", meaning that it can receive and transmit on three popular HAM Radio bands - 144/220/440 MHz with FIVE full watts of power on all of the bands. Even with just those specifications, it's a valuable radio - but Kenwood goes WAY beyond that!

The nicad batteries are very long lasting, the design is rugged, and the device has that solid, quality feel to it that gadget lovers appreciate. But beyond the basics, the radio is so much more - it can receive far more bands using far more modulating modes than any other handheld radio that I am aware of. And not only does it receive those signals - its sensitivity to them is unsurpassed by any handheld radio I know of either. Amazing!

With the TH-F6A, I can listen to such diverse broadcasts as the standard AM radio band, the standard FM band, the NOAA weather radio frequencies, HAM HF bands such as 20 meters in UPPER SIDEBAND MODE - and on and on. Wow! What a radio! Here are a number of Google links about the TH-F6A and here is a great hyperlink to the manufacturer with more details on this remarkable and best selling radio. I've owned mine for many years and it has never let me down.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Of Gadgets and Shoes

My sexist comment for today is - men like gadgets and tools like women like dresses and shoes. Leaving aside the sexism, a lot of women I know are fans of gadgets too ... no comment on any of the men!

Four gadgets that I carry around with me all the time are my Treo 755P smartphone, my Sansa e280 MP3 player - *, my Kenwood TH-F6A tri-band handheld radio, and my Leatherman Surge multi-tool.

The multi-tool is an extremely useful device for such diverse things as bending, cutting, and stripping wires - tightening bolts - screwing and unscrewing flat head and phillips screws - opening letters and packages - filing rough edges - etc. No matter where you are, there's always a need for handyman work, and the multi-tool is the perfect tool to carry around.

I prefer to have high quality tools and am willing to pay a premium price for them, if necessary. In my opinion, the Leatherman Surge is the best multi-tool ever made, and my faith in that statement grows with every task I discover that the Surge is the perfect tool for the job.

One of my favorite television programs is "Survivorman", starring Les Stroud, and he is a great proponent of the Leatherman Wave multitool - taking it with him on all of his survival episodes. I have big hands, so the Surge, which is larger than the Wave, is my preferred tool, but no matter which Leatherman you choose to carry with you, you won't be disappointed.

* - P.S. I "upgraded" my MP3 player from the 4GB Sansa e260 described in an earlier post to the 8GB Sansa e280 when NewEgg.COM made me an offer I couldn't refuse. (But not in a negative sense like the Godfather series puts it.)

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Sansa e260 MP3 Player

I recently purchased a pair of Sansa e260 MP3 Players from NewEgg.COM (a great resource for electronics by the way) for myself and my brother - who just turned 49 years old. It's a great MP3 player, but what excites me the most is the fact that an Open Source project called Rockbox can be installed on the little ARM9 powered machine and I can then modify it as I see fit! Now this is a real hacker's dream machine. Why purchase a relatively expensive ARM development board when you can get one like this for about $50 bucks and still be able to program for a platform that rivals PCs of the 1980s and 1990s for power and storage?

I'm still in the process of "getting my feet wet" with the source code for the Rockbox, as I have already downloaded, built on my Ubuntu Linux PC, and successfully installed the new kernel on the e260. I hope to work on adding features to the "plugins" collection.

I encourage all hacker types to consider getting such a machine and exploring on it. Don't fear bricking the machine either, for you just can't beat the incredibly low price for replacing it, if necessary.

As an MP3 player, I find its audio to be exceptional, its battery life to be good, and the quality of construction to be great. Buy it ... you'll like it!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Palm Treo 755P

The Android platform offers great potential, but it has a long was to go to catch up and pass the Palm Treo 755P in functionality. I have no doubts that it will eventually get there since it is a much more open platform, but until then the Treo rules!

On my Treo I have hundreds of eBooks, multiple eBook readers, QuickNews for RSS and Atom feeds, an HP-41CX emulator (my favorite RPN calculator), a fantastic algebraic system called SpaceTime, the best PDA Bible software - the Laradian PocketBible for the Palm (including Finnis Dake's notes), videos from the Google I/O 2008 conference, lectures by Steven Covey and Jeff Hawkins, the entire audio Bible by Alexander Scourby, ten albums of my favorite music, a great little stock market program called Stock Manager, Agendus Pro for advanced PIM functionality, Checklist and Shadow Plan for creating comprehensive outlines and checklists, PsMemo, Googlemaps, Pocket Quicken, etc.

The list is endless of the useful applications, data, and multimedia files that this machine holds, representing a significant investment in time and dollars in creating it. Not to mention the solid hardware of the Palm Treo family, including the very best thumb keyboard I've ever used.

It is my sincere desire that Palm scraps their OS plans and instead ports the Palm tools on top of Android - but their hardware is JUST RIGHT!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

And they're off!!!

The world now has real live hardware running the Android OS thanks to T-Mobile and the race is on!

Users are exclaiming their joy and their frustrations with the new platform and developers (like myself) are scrambling to understand and fix the problems. It's a very exciting time indeed to be working on something that is going to transform the world of technology.

In recent news, Google announced that the source code for the whole platform has been released as well. Unfortunately for me, it's a huge amount code being rougly 2.1 GB in size. My connection to the Internet is a fast Satellite connection via HughesNet, but it isn't fast enough to make for an easy download of that much data. Oh well. At least I have remote access to my company servers attached to a T3 line to use. (And I own the company, so nobody will be complaining. :)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Google Android

I am getting very excited about the Google Android Project ever since they released their 1.0 SDK. It looks like a fun platform for programming all sorts of useful tools. My only current regret is that I live where only Verizon Wireless can reach - and they currently don't support Android phones. I wish T-Mobile were here in Hillsboro, but that's the way it goes sometimes. Maybe someday soon, Verizon will release a phone like the T-Mobile G1 and I will finally have a good excuse for letting go of my beloved Palm Treo 755P.

The Android platform offers a software stack that is optimized for slow CPUs, low memory, battery powered devices, and in my opinion it is very well designed. Although my favorite programming language is Forth, the Java programming language has proven to be a powerful alternative and for years I have programmed professionally in Java, so I am very familiar with it.

Android runs on a Google-optimized byte code interpreter called Dalvik and the core Java classes are all there. The whole stack runs on a customized version of ARM Linux (two other GREAT platforms to stand on - ARM and Linux!) and should make for a very fun system to program and use. Great work Google, T-Mobile, and the whole Open Handset Alliance!

About Me

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Hillsboro, Missouri, United States

I am a netizen of the world. I enjoy fresh air, fine wines, rural scenery, classical music, eBooks, and interacting with the other netizens of the world.

I look forward every day to waking up, writing code, and learning new things.